Buy/Drive/Burn: Three-door Japanese SUVs in 1989
Do you remember what the compact SUV market looked like in 1989? Me either. But it was a time where every Japanese manufacturer (except Honda, obviously) offered a three-door SUV. Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Isuzu all vie for your 1989 dollars.
Note: American market promo photos are hard to find, so foreign market photos shown.
Nissan fielded a Pathfinder for the first time in 1987, in response to offerings from American manufacturers that were on sale since early in the decade. The first generation (WD21) was based on the Nissan Hardbody pickup, and shared its engines and four-wheel drive system. The last model year for the two-door Pathfinder was 1989 – it grew more doors in 1990 and never looked back. Today’s base model selection employs a 2.4-liter inline-four. 106 horsepower and 137 lb-ft of torque are handled via the four-speed manual transmission. The stylish grille slats at the front are also handy rust importers.
Mitsubishi started production of the first generation Pajero in 1982, which it sold around the globe under various adventures in branding: Dodge, Hyundai, and Colt all badged their own versions. Initially a two-door model, Mitsubishi quickly introduced the long-wheelbase five-door in 1983. North American dealers received Monteros in the very first model year, and the range expanded to the five-door version in 1989. The base model (our selection) arrives via a 2.6-liter inline-four producing 109 horsepower and 142 lb-ft of torque. The manual transmission has five speeds, and since it’s not a V6 maybe it’ll leak less oil.
Isuzu beat Mitsubishi to the punch with their Trooper, offered since 1981. The Trooper was also branded globally by Holden, Chevrolet, SaangYong, and Subaru. Trooper was available in three- and five-door variants from the get-go. There was a bit of engine shuffling for American-bound Troopers for the first few years. Isuzu tried out a 2.3-liter four cylinder which burned itself up, and a turbodiesel which made 87 horsepower and liked to break apart internally. A new 2.6-liter was used in 1988, but that was replaced with GM’s 2.8-liter V6 from the S-10 for 1989. That means today’s Trooper offers 125 horsepower and a five-speed manual.
Three boxes with a rusty and rough-and-tumble attitude. Which goes home with the Buy?
[Images: Nissan, Isuzu, Mitsubishi]
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